Abdominal Separation (Diastasis Recti)
“Diastasis recti” means your belly sticks out because the space between your left and right belly muscles has widened. You might call it a “pooch.”
It's very common among pregnant women. About two-thirds of pregnant women have it.
Newborn babies also can have this belly spread, and it should go away on its own. Men can get it, possibly from yo-yo dieting, from doing sit-ups or weightlifting the wrong way, or from other causes.
Having more than one child makes this condition more likely, especially if they’re close in age. You’re also more likely to get it if you’re over 35 when pregnant, or if you’re having a heavy baby or twins, triplets, or more.
Pregnancy puts so much pressure on the belly that sometimes the muscles in front can’t keep their shape. "Diastasis" means separation. "Recti" refers to your ab muscles called the "rectus abdominis."
When the ab muscles move aside like this, the uterus, bowels, and other organs have only a thin band of connective tissue in front to hold them in place. Without the needed muscle support, a vaginal delivery could be more difficult.
The condition also can cause lower back pain, constipation, and urine leaking. It can even make it harder to breathe and to move normally. It's rare, but in extreme cases, the tissue may tear, and organs may poke out of the opening -- that’s called a hernia.
The muscle opening often shrinks after giving birth, but in some studies of women with diastasis recti, the muscle wasn't back to normal even a year later.
Dos and Don'ts
Don't strain. It can make matters worse. Constipation and lifting heavy things, including your kids, strain that connective tissue. Standing up and sitting down also count as heavy lifting in this case, because you’re lifting your body weight.
You push down when giving birth, but if done wrong, this action puts big pressure on the weak belly tissue.
Do be careful with exercise. Some routine fitness moves, including crunches, sit-ups, pushups, press-ups, and front planks, make abdominal separation worse. So can swimming, some yoga poses (like downward dog), and doing anything on your hands and knees. Some trainers may suggest those exercises for women with abdominal separation, not knowing what could happen.